What is your job?
I am teacher, chaplain and wellbeing officer at Dederang Primary School. I have been teaching literacy, numeracy, the performing arts and SEL which is social and emotional learning. The school is also involved in Alpine Health’s resilience program, which aims to give the kids skills for their emotional and social wellbeing. Currently the school has 19 students.
Is it something you always wanted to do?
Yes, I have always wanted to be a teacher. My grandfather was the headmaster of a small rural school in the Philippines. I was born in the Philippines but when I was six months old my dad, who was a surgeon, moved us to the US, so I grew up on Long Island in New York. We went back to the Philippines when I was 12 because my parents were worried that we might lose out Philippino culture. Our ancestral home was there, and our grandparents were getting old and they wanted us to know them. That was important in a conservative Catholic society. I didn’t mind, I knew I could always move out later if I wanted to, and we always went back to the US in the school holidays. My mum passed away when I was 16. I studied teaching and Eu- ropean languages at university and decided to venture out and come to Australia to do my masters at the University of New England. I was fascinated with aboriginal culture and my first job placement was at Broken Hill teaching aboriginal kids. I love small schools. I worked at Guyra, and at Carinda, then at the other end of the spectrum, at PLC in Armidale. I did contract work in Queensland, then at another abo- riginal school at Lake Cargelligo.
How did you come to be in the Kiewa Valley?
I came to visit Victoria and fell in love with the Kiewa Valley with the mountains, the river and the countryside. I got a job at the Mt Beauty Primary School, and finally settled in Dederang.
What do you love about the job?
I think it’s making a difference in the lives of the kids I work with. I like teaching them openness and resilience skills. I love the way they look at things, their innocence just blows me away. I learn so much from the kids – to be a risk-taker, to be creative and to have childlike wonder. It leads me to have hope that the world will be a better place.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to travel, I love meeting people and I really enjoy climbing the local mountains, like Mt Bogong. I love dancing, and I teach Zumba to the kids. We really like performing.